Building a gaming rig on a budget in 2021 has proven to be quite a tremendous challenge. Heck, we’re putting it mildly here: it’s relatively impossible if you’re not willing to invest a small fortune for even the most basic of configurations. And, frankly, we’re not talking about any gaming beasts here either — just the bare minimum to achieve high enough frame rates and respectable graphical settings.
That’s 2021 in a nutshell, basically.
Fortunately, esports titles — League of Legends, Dota 2, Overwatch, Fortnite, etc. — aren’t exactly the most demanding when it comes to hardware. This, in short, is quite the blessing given the current hardware climate and the whole cryptocurrency mining craze.
This means that gamers can still build sufficiently powerful gaming rigs for pretty much the same amount of money as in years prior. More often than not, this endeavour will result in a PC with an integrated graphics card, or iGPU for short. If that’s not your cup of tea — and you don’t have a sack of cash lying around for a dedicated GPU — then you’re pretty much out of luck.
Fortunately, integrated graphics cards are no longer an option worthy of anyone’s ridicule. On the contrary! They are, in fact, surprisingly potent and are, believe it or not, the absolute perfect choice in a time like this.
Of course, this sort of set-up is only viable if you’re willing to limit yourself to esports titles. Triple A ones can run in general, but the overall gaming experience isn’t anything to write home about. And, again, we’re putting it mildly here. No one should be playing narrative-driven titles at sub-1080p resolutions (720p more often than not) with 30 to 40 FPS at best.
That’s not a good experience — that’s masochism.
So, what are our options, seeing how the GPU market probably won’t stabilize any time soon?
Esports Budget Build in 2021 | AMD vs. Intel
As is so often the case, this age-old battle between “team red” and “team blue” simply has to be the starting point. For the longest time, this wasn’t much of clash as AMD lacked the tools (and products) which were necessary to compete. With their Ryzen series of processors, however, they were not only able to compete on even footing but even win out more often than not.
For esports gaming on a budget, we’re looking for something relatively specific: Ryzen processors with integrated Vega graphics. Now, these models are far from mainstream, but they have caught on popularity-wise as the years went on. Most folks have heard of them primarily because of the incredible value they bring to the table. Now, they’re no longer as good from a price-to-performance standpoint as was the case a couple of years ago, but the point still stands.
Let’s Talk Value
If you want the absolute best performance per dollar, the Ryzen 2400G is pretty much impossible to beat. You can find one used for around $80-$90 if you have a bit of luck on your side which, in all fairness, is pretty much a steal. It also comes equipped with Vega 11 graphics — a far more sufficient gaming solution than you’d expect.
It’ll run Overwatch at 1080p High at around 50 FPS at 100% resolution scale. That’s nothing to scoff at, and you can easily reach that oh-so-alluring 60 FPS mark by tinkering a bit with the settings. You can check out a bit of gameplay in the video below, courtesy of the Tech Deals YouTube channel:
And, of course, it’ll chew through the standard esports suite of games with ease: League of Legends, Dota 2, Rocket League, Fortnite, etc. The only exceptions are Apex Legends and Call of Duty: Warzone — both of which are quite demanding in terms of GPU power. They will run, but only at 720p with Low-Medium settings. It’s an okay experience overall, but nothing that’ll blow your mind.
Fast RAM Is An Absolute Must
As with any iGPU set-up, you’ll have to get a bit of fast DDR4 RAM — preferably 16GB (3000Mhz or 3200Mhz) in two separate sticks so that they can run in dual channel. That’s pretty much an imperative as you won’t be able to harness the full potential of the aforementioned Vega iGPU otherwise.
Plus, with the 2400G being relatively old by now, you’ll be able to use an “ancient” B350 motherboard, which will further lower the barrier for entry. Just make sure it’s not an A320 chipset as those won’t allow for any overclocking!
Alternatively, there’s also the Ryzen 5 3400G which is an even better option, although only if you can snag one up for a good price! Finally, there’s the fourth generation of these APUs (4350G, 4650G, 4750G) which are all beastly by design, but their iGPUs are mostly weaker, even when overclocked. Still, they’re better overall and don’t run quite as hot. Plus, if you need the most CPU horsepower, they’re definitely the way to go.
What About Intel?
Unfortunately, “team blue” doesn’t have an equivalent offering at the time of this writing. Their integrated Iris Xe graphics are surprisingly powerful, but they’re not available on the desktop side of things (not yet at least). Still, if you’re looking to game on-the-go, they’re definitely worth taking a look at!
Esports Budget Build in 2021 | It’s All About the Upgrade Path
The reason why building a budget esports gaming rig in 2021 makes sense is quite simple: it’s all about the upgrade path. By having a strong iGPU you’ll be able to game whenever you feel like it and then, sometime in the future when the market stabilizes, you’ll be able to buy a dedicated graphics card and upgrade your rig with ease.
The point is to have a band-aid solution of sorts that won’t break the bank and yet will still allow you to game comfortably. An iGPU set-up won’t blow your mind by any stretch of the imagination, but it’ll definitely get the job done, especially if you’re only going to play esports titles. It might not sound like much, but given the state of the market, it really does make a whole lot of sense.
Hopefully by the end of 2021 we’ll look back at this whole GPU debacle and laugh as if it were nothing more than a bad dream!